Skip to main content

Full text of "Criticism and Self-Criticism"

See other formats

Deepening Roots 















The seed of revolution has been sown again in our land, and our Party can feel some 
sense of achievement in the part we have taken in this planting. We are still young and 
small but we have made a strong start. We have done more than scratch the shiny surface 
of the U.S. ruling class; we have begun to rip away its mask, to expose its ugliness— and 
to get under its skin. 

It's not for nothing the ruling class has decided to make our Party its number one target in 
the U.S. In a relatively few months, we have set up a national Communist party with a 
wise and firm foundation of friends, readers, supporters and members among working 
people, black and white, as well as among the students, in the forefront of today's battles. 

Also, we have begun to overcome the main internal weaknesses which had been holding 
us back. First and foremost we have corrected certain sectarian policies which had 
isolated us from too many people and organizations in the growing people's movement 
against the war, slum conditions, high prices, wage- squeezing and other fat-profit 
Government policies. We know now that in our early stages we under emphasized united 
front work, neglected the labor movement, and expected too much too soon. Since our 
founding convention a year ago we have begun to combine with large numbers of people 
and to take united action with many groups, while maintaining and advancing our 
Marxist-Leninist principles and actually expanding our advocacy of socialist revolution. 

To some extent our early sectarianism was inevitable as we fought to avoid the right- 
opportunist errors of the old Communist Party which had followed the "three secrets" 
policy: keep the Party a secret (except from the FBI), keep the activities a secret (even 
from Party members), and keep revolution and socialism a secret (from the masses of 

Our members had to fight hard to put forward publicly the principles of socialist 
revolution. We had to let people know what communism really means, that yes there is a 
way finally to solve our problems-socialism; and that a Party exists which is not afraid to 
fight for that solution. We had to and still must struggle to make the idea of revolution 

It's not surprising, then, that in our early activities members tended to go overboard and 
ignore or even reject people and groups who were not yet ready to join us . This early 
sectarianism hurt us, and it's a tribute to our correct overall political line, and to the 
energetic, youthful spirit of our members, that we were able to attract so many young 
radicals, in spite of this weakness. 

Sectarianism and isolation remain problems for us today, but they are not primarily 
problems of policy. On the whole we have corrected our policy, and our significant 
influence in the current anti imperialist upsurge reflects this change. 

At the same time, we have begun to conquer the lack of seriousness which once thrived 
in our ranks. Here, the enemy has been most helpful. The arrests, subpoenas and physical 
attacks on us have made every member think twice about why he is sticking with this 
Party, and understand that the revolution is not to be achieved quickly, but through a 
lifetime of struggle, continuing, in new forms, even after the working class takes power. 
Some have chosen to leave, of course, but those who remain are stronger for it. 

Here, too, our early policy was wrong, dominated by liberalism and carelessness in 
recruiting new members. We often placed quantity above quality. Perhaps this, too, was 
inevitable at the outset. Also, we didn't always sit down and explain to people what they 
were getting themselves into when they joined a Communist party, what the risks are, the 
long-range commitment that is a necessary part of the revolutionary ideology. We even 
had cases where young people with virtually no understanding of what was happening 
were brought into a club and made voting members. 

We have learned from these errors, and changed our membership policy. In general, our 
members and leaders have been forced to begin thinking about long-term strategy both 
for their own lives and the life and growth of the Party. 

As a result, we can already see an increase in both the quantity and quality of our work, 
our membership, and our Marxist-Leninist study. Last summer's cadre school was a big 
step up this hill. Naturally, there remain a few who still have their heads in the clouds, 
who are still playing at revolution, but we can rely on the ruling class to thump them 
down to earth. 

These successes are only the beginning, and it is easy enough to say that none of the 
changes has yet gone far enough. But an honest evaluation of our recent growth must 
emphasize our success and achievement. Our Party has stood like a young sapling in a 
windstorm of howling attacks, sometimes swaying a little but holding firm and deepening 
its roots as it grows. 


We cannot of course, just sit and admire ourselves in the mirror of achievement. As the 
situation sharpens we must ask ourselves, will we be prepared? As we expand our circle 
of friends and relations, will we be able to avoid the opportunist "Hamlin" approach of 
trailing after every reformist pie-eyed piper in town? And will we at the same time avoid 
sectarian isolation? Will we continue to struggle as we unite with other people and 
groups? Will we know how to struggle? Are we perfect or can we improve our work? 

If we ask this question and ask it again and again every day in every way then we are 
halfway improved already. If we do not ask the question, then we will surely become 
smug and complacent and flabby, and we might as well join Gus Hall and Norman 

To improve our work means, first, to look for the main weakness or obstacle to our 
progress. We should not look far. Those who run to Palomar to scan the skies in search of 
dangers may see many interesting phenomena but they will miss the main point. "It is not 
in our stars, but in ourselves..." that the main contradiction, and the main obstacle to our 
continued success, lies. The main cause of failure— like the main cause of success— is 
contained within any revolutionary party or movement, not outside it. Those, like the old 
C.P., who blame the ruling class for their failure are only diverting attention from their 
own weaknesses or betrayals. Of course, every party must reckon with the real conditions 
of life around it, but the party's internal strength or weakness will determine how well it 

Our Party's main obstacle is the influence and ideology of bourgeois society within our 
ranks. Our most decisive struggle today is between revolutionary and bourgeois ideology, 
and particularly between revolutionary morality and bourgeois individualism, between 
complete dedication to the working class and middle-class self-interest, which is the 
moral and material basis of modern revisionism. 

The existence of bourgeois ideas, attitudes and habits within our ranks is hardly 
astonishing. At this early stage, our Party, like most new-born revolutionary parties, has a 
large percentage of intellectuals and members of middle-class background. Moreover, 
every revolutionary party has internal struggle reflecting the class struggle in the society 
around it. And the society around us in this case causes some pretty weird reflections. 

The U.S. capitalist class is not only the richest, most powerful ruling class in history, it is 
also the most corrupt, most brutal, most degenerate and most egotistic; and the ruling 
class tries to impose its own morality on the whole of society. It's not just "getting and 
spending" that is too much with us. Books, newspapers, comics, teachers, philosophers, 
politicians, psychiatrists, movies, and especially television all give subtle daily 
indoctrination in the basic elements of capitalist, and fascist, morality: Might-makes-right 
(the tough guy is the good guy) and Me-before-every-one-else ("Don't trust nobody"). 

From our first breath we breathe this stuff. How could we possibly be completely free 
from it? The history of the left in the U.S. shows one group after another surrendering to 
this bourgeois self-interest, first slowly, then completely abandoning the difficult struggle 
against the ruling class and ending up in the comfort corner of class collaboration. 

Yet it need not always be so. The bourgeois ideology in our ranks can be a good thing, 
too. If we recognize and know how to deal with it, we can grow stronger as a result of 
having purged it away. This experience can be a valuable lesson for the future. When the 
working class takes power, bourgeois influences do not automatically disappear, as we 
can see by looking at the countries ruled by revisionist parties. If internal contradictions 
are mishandled in a socialist country the result may be disastrous, as we can see by 
looking at these same countries. 

Once we recognize that bourgeois influences are inevitable in our ranks, then the whole 
question becomes how do these influences crop up, and how should we handle them. If 

we fail to handle correctly the problem of bourgeois ideology, then the Party itself, and 
particularly the leadership, must accept responsibility for the consequences. We cannot 
blame it on society. 

The ideological struggle is the primary struggle. Its outcome, in the long run, determines 
the political line and the organizational form. This struggle includes understanding and 
developing the ideology of the working class as well as battling against bourgeois 

At the same time, we must know how to conduct this struggle. Here, it is particularly 
important to distinguish between antagonistic and non-antagonistic struggle; we want to 
wipe out antagonistic bourgeois ideas and habits, not the individuals who display, often 
unknowingly and usually without antagonism, those ideas and habits. 

But before discussing how to deal with the problem, let us look more closely at the 
problem itself. 


The corrupt influence of capitalist morality crops up in many ways. The contradiction 
between this influence and our Party's collective, revolutionary spirit and goals takes 
many forms. 

Sometimes there will be an open ideological dispute between two lines. A few of our 
members wanted to support Johnson against Goldwater in the last elections, arguing that 
Goldwater would expand the war, bomb north Vietnam, draft hundreds of thousands of 
U.S. boys, and other such things. In the course of discussions this position was clearly 
exposed as an opportunist abandoning of the working people's interest. Later Johnson 
helped make it even clearer. 

That was a case where one line was revisionist and the other was Marxist-Leninist. That 
is the best form of contradiction for our Party. It is open and clear cut. The debate is 
political and the revisionist or other incorrect position is exposed and eventually rejected. 
Such debates should be welcomed and carried to the end. At this stage in history, the 
struggle against revisionism is the main struggle within the revolutionary movement. 

Thanks mainly to the consistently negative example of the U.S. revisionists and social 
democrats, our Party has not had too much difficulty with these policy disputes. 
However, we must be continuously alert to bring such disputes out in the open when they 

We intend to deal mainly with those aspects of this contradiction which are more 
concealed; with the struggle against bourgeois habits and ideas, which are often little 
understood by those who harbor them. Here, the two main conflicts are between 
bourgeois individualism and revolutionary dedication, and between pragmatism and 
Marxist-Leninist analysis and planning. 

Bourgeois individualism is a fancy term for selfishness. That is, capitalist selfishness, 
selfishness for personal gain, prestige, power, comfort or material goods— usually at the 
expense of others. People with this approach have an amazing variety of rationalizations. 

"The heads of such people are stuffed with the ideology of the exploiting classes. They 
believe that 'Every man is for himself 'Man is a selfish animal' and 'No one in the world 
is genuinely unselfish unless he is a simpleton or an idiot.' They even use such exploiting 
class rubbish to justify their own selfishness and individualism." (Liu Shao-chi, XI, How 
to Be A Good Communist, Feb. 1946 edition, p. 58) 

The conflict or contradiction within our Party, and -often within an individual member, is 
between the individualist tendency, which is the authentic Golden Rule of capitalism, and 
a dedication to the working class and the vast majority of the world's people, a dedication 
that makes socialist revolution and the achievement of communism more important than 
personal gain. It might be more accurate to say that through this dedication our selves 
become one with our class, and personal gain is achieved only through a gain for the 
entire class. 

In other words, how much do we want this thing, this revolution? That's what it all comes 
down to. Is it more important to us than ourselves, our personal comfort, prestige, money, 
or life? Are we willing to remold ourselves into integral parts of a revolutionary party, to 
subordinate and eventually transform the old self into the new self which exists only 
through our Party and our unending fight for revolutionary change? 

At this point a cry of protest will no doubt arise from many a radical heart. "No," they 
will exclaim, "we cannot live only through the Party! That is denying our humanity! Our 
individual essence! Our goal of full and free and creative expression for each! We will 
sacrifice our time, our energy, our money, but never our minds, never our hearts! " 

Some may say these things having been sincerely repelled by the unfeeling bureaucracy 
of the old CP. And it is crucial that we avoid any repetition of that Gus Hall-itis. But it is 
intriguing that those who argue so long and loud about feeling and thinking often do 
amazing little of either. 

It is self-evident to anyone who dares to look that we do not want an unfeeling, 
unthinking party. Such a party could not last two days as a revolutionary force. A party 
whose members don't feel pain and suffering could hardly burn with a desire to wipe out 
the rats and slumlords who are eating away at the flesh and blood of our ghetto children. 
A party whose members do not care for their fellow men could hardly care whether or not 
coal miners can afford to send their children to hospitals. A party whose members cannot 
love the people cannot hate the ruling class. A party which does not know trust and 
confidence in humanity could never build a society based on that trust and confidence. 
And as for thinking, the entire science of Marxism-Leninism requires thinking, a science 
which enables us to understand— only through hard thinking— the rules of reality and 
change, to develop new thoughts on how to make life better for the vast majority of 
people, and to fight effectively the long war against those who fear ideas. Without 

creative, individual thinking, there is no Marxism-Leninism. Automatons will never 
make a revolution, and any automatons within our ranks are useless at best. 

The question is: What is the aim of feeling and thinking? For whom and to what end? Are 
we grumbling about going to a meeting because we would rather sit home and watch TV, 
or because it may be keeping us from selling newspapers to working people in our 
community? Do we worry when making a public speech or writing an article about our 
prestige, how we will look, or about how people will respond to the ideas we express? 
When deciding for or against a demonstration do we consider the best interests of the 
Party or are we more concerned with staying out of jail? 

In other words, don't stop thinking and feeling, but change the purpose for which we 
think and feel if the purpose is wrong. Use our minds and hearts— as well as our time and 
energy— for the working class. The statement, "I'll give my time and energy for the Party 
but not my heart" reveals a person whose time and energy are as empty as his emotions. 
It is like the artist who says, "I will gladly support the movement, but when it comes to 
painting, that I reserve for myself." The movement gains little from this support, and even 
less does the world gain from his painting. 


As we said, significant progress has been made since our founding convention. Yet, 
despite the ruling class attacks on us, some members still think they're playing games. 
They think they can call "time out" whenever they want. They are as sloppy in their work 
as in their dress and personal habits. They live in a dream world. They just can't quite 
understand or believe that our Party is really out to make a revolution, and that making a 
revolution takes a lifetime, which means as long as we are alive, and then some. You 
can't really blame these people too much. After all, the U.S. Left has been non 
revolutionary for so long that revolution is a brand new thought to most newcomers. 

The lack of seriousness first crops up in a lot of "little" day-to-day ways: The student 
PLer who sleeps late instead of getting out on the campus early to talk with more people; 
the member of a neighborhood club who never thinks of writing a story for our 
newspaper on PL or other community activities; the "organizer" who never stays after a 
meeting to talk informally because he's always rushing, no matter how late at night, to 
meet his latest girlfriend; those who just never seem to sell any PL literature, but have 
seen all the latest movies; those in study groups who read assignments as if they were 
carrying out the hardest job, or don't bother to read at all. 

These habits and dozens of others— lazy, degenerate attitudes— are simply self-indulgence. 
They grow out of a society which makes work a burden and loafing a goal. But they are 
directly related, as is fear, to the lack of desire for the revolution and lack of 
understanding of, and commitment to, the working class. Some members who come from 
middle-class comfort seem to seek a safe little living room to crawl back into from time 
to time, just as water seeks its own level. 

True, revolutionary struggle is often taxing, and everybody needs enough rest to maintain 
adequate physical and mental health. But racism is a strain on the black people in our 
country, napalm bombs are taxing to the Vietnamese, and trying to feed a family when 
you don't have a job can be downright exhausting. The ruling class permits its enemies 
few vacations. 

Let's look closely at the real conditions of this world we tend to live in so complacently. 
Let us remind ourselves of the napalmed children of Vietnam and the Congo. But that 
may be somewhat distant, although distance should not be a measure of importance. Let 
us take ourselves through the ghetto communities of our big cities where we have begun 
some work or the Kentucky miner's homes, or the Mississippi croppers, or the Puerto 
Rican "migrant serfs" of New Jersey, or their brother migrants in the Salinas Valley; the 
rat bites, the TB, the hungry bellies and the soulful eyes, the living death that constitutes 
the casualty list of the class struggle. Let us make every member understand that war is 
not a sometime thing. 

The leaders of our Party must constantly set an example by hard work, commitment, and 
willingness to sacrifice. At the same time, we should call attention to Party groups and 
rank-and-file members whose consistent activities and courage can inspire us all. 

Here we should not seek out those who are simply "devoted" to the Party as a blind man 
is devoted to his seeing-eye dog. When we praise dedication we should praise dedication 
to revolution, to the working people of our country, and therefore to the Party, as the 
leading part of but always part of that revolution and that people. No blind men here! 
Each of us dedicates his eyes to all the rest, and so each of us can see better. 

To be dedicated, of course, does not mean to be dead. In striving to overcome 
carelessness we must avoid the deathly grimness which pervades those few pseudo 
radical groups which have virtually declared laughter counter-revolutionary. The laughter 
of our Party is healthy and a sign of great basic strength. In general, individuals who take 
themselves too seriously, besides being over-stuffed with their own importance, are no 
fun to be with. Most people laugh even through hardship; if we are people, we'll laugh, 
too. Unfortunately, a few of our people don't yet understand that we are also 
revolutionaries, which means that underlying our laughter must be a basic resoluteness. 
In due time, of course, the enemy will teach these people. But it may be a costly lesson 
for all of us if we wait till then to learn. 


The most serious immediate problem facing our Party is the isolation of too many 
members from non-Party people, especially working people. This problem persists 
despite changes away from some early sectarian policies and despite the fact that a 
significant number of Party members have begun to establish important roots for 
themselves, particularly in the labor movement. Too many members still have no real 
friends outside the Party. A few members still shun getting a job. This is not a policy 
problem today, but a problem of ideology in every one of us. 

Some members seem to think that developing friendships with new people is some sort of 
burden. On certain evenings they'll force themselves out of a sense of duty to visit non- 
party contacts, and some won't even do that much. But every free moment they get they'll 
drop in for a relaxing bull session, cup of coffee, and rest with one of the in-group or 
"real friends" who are usually in the Party. 

This elitist snobbery reflects fear and lack of resoluteness. After all, it takes an extra 
effort to make a new friend in the neighborhood, in school, or on the job. It may even 
mean going out of the way, crossing the street to say hello to a neighbor, inviting co- 
workers over for supper or organizing a party. And why strain ourselves to visit new 
people's homes when we have such a comfortable "home" here in the social-political 
clique which, in cases where it applies, we call our Party club? 

Another side of this anti-social attitude is the member who has just read the above and 
said to himself most righteously, "I've got friends outside the party— lots of them!" but 
who somehow never discusses political questions with any of these friends. He patronizes 
these non-Party friends by systematically, though not always consciously, excluding them 
from the supposedly most important part of his life— his commitment to revolution. Not 
that they have to agree politically, but this patronizing member never even discusses 
politics with his friends. The result is they are not genuine friends, and they don't develop 
politically even if they should want to. 

No one is arguing here that every friendship and tie outside the Party should be purely or 
even mainly political. Not at all. The member who can't discuss anything but politics is 
going to have a rough time when the World Series rolls around. A few of our members 
still seem unable to say anything but, "Will you come to the demonstration?" when they 
meet people in the street. But anyone who divides his political comrades from his friends, 
who keeps one set of ideas for one and another for the other and never the twain shall 
even overlap, is just as useless as the person with no friends outside the Party. 

The whole question of mass work requires an analytical article on its own. But it is 
basically an ideological question. What do we really want? If we want to make a 
revolution in this country, we have to win new people and work with people even when 
we won't win them. We cannot do it alone. Alone, we can make ourselves as snug, and 
useless, as the cue ball in a corner pocket. In our written work, too, we still tend to be too 
narrow. Cliches come quick, and some members enjoy attacking everybody and anybody 
who doesn't agree with us 1 10 per cent, and everybody is attacked with equal venom. A 
few members still flinch at the thought of working with other, less "pure" organizations. 
Of course, polemics such as the recent exchange with Studies on the Left are very useful 
and should be conducted. But in general, our writers and editors should consider carefully 
how much space is spent on criticizing— and what is the tone of the criticism— various 
weak and/or negative tendencies. Let us fire most of our shots, and our most explosive 
ammunition, at the main enemy— U.S. imperialism and its front men, modern revisionism. 


This attitude says, "I will do what I'm asked to do and no more. I will follow orders. I will 
question nothing. I will not think. I will not criticize. And of my sacred, inner self, I will 
give nothing." Often, if criticized, members with this attitude will simply withdraw. 
Basically, this attitude resists change because to change would mean to give of that 
sacred, inner self which is held above and beyond the Party and the working class. 
Members with this attitude almost always try to select or somehow manage to get jobs 
which require the least responsibility. When they are not doing "Party work," they don't 
think about making revolutionary changes in anything. They are "off the job" until the 
next meeting or assignment. 

If they ever have a new idea it scares the hell out of them, and they quickly smother it as 
unbefitting a "good" Party member. They are revolutionaries in a rut, which is an 
impossible contradiction. Sooner or later, usually sooner, the revolutionary must destroy 
the rut or the rut will destroy the revolutionary, no matter how regularly he attends Party 
meetings. Even when they work efficiently and devotedly, such members work dully and 
without initiative. "Initiative is for the leadership." Presumably if the leadership 
disappeared tomorrow, these members would stop political work because they wouldn't 
know what to do. Isn't that just what happened in the fifties with so many Communist 
Party members? 

Paradoxically, such people often harbor resentments against one or another of those they 
consider to be their "employers," usually some among the leadership. In fact, it is 
sometimes hard to figure out what stubborn streak of personality keeps such people in the 
Party. Yet if they could only see that it's not so horrible to try something and fail, that 
failure is in fact a necessary prerequisite for every success, these members usually have 
great political potential and sometimes even brilliant minds buried beneath their 
employee mentality. 


How shall we react when our weaknesses are pointed out? Unfortunately, it is easy to 
pick out weaknesses which obviously apply to others and shrug off or ignore our own. 
That attitude, of course, reflects the very individualism of which all these weaknesses we 
have mentioned are only different forms. 

These weaknesses often reflect a lack of involvement in the daily struggles of the 
working people. At the same time, they always reflect a low level of revolutionary 
ideology. To the extent that individualism dominates an individual, to that extent 
Marxism-Leninism is subordinated. The weakness, in other words, consists of both the 
existence of bad traits and the non-existence of revolutionary ideology. We must 
understand this in order to struggle against these shortcomings. When we criticize, and 
when we suggest ways of improving, we must emphasize Marxist-Leninist study. 

To the extent that any of the above mentioned tendencies exist in a member, to that extent 
personal concern and personal loyalty take the place of class concern and loyalty. But 
that is precisely the moral and material foundation of modern revisionism. "Don't fight 

the imperialists because you might get killed." So we can see that bourgeois 
individualism, if it is unchecked, if it is not consciously opposed in our ranks will lead to 
revisionism. The struggle against it therefore, must be sharp, and it must be ideological. 
This can't be said too many times. We stand for active ideological struggle because it is 
the weapon for insuring unity within the Party and the revolutionary organizations in the 
interests of our fight. Every Communist and every revolutionary should take up this 
weapon. But liberalism rejects ideological struggle and stands for unprincipled peace, 
thus giving rise to a decadent, philistine attitude and bringing about political degeneration 
in certain units and individuals in the Party and the revolutionary organizations. (Mao 
Tse-tung, Combat Liberalism Vol. II, Selected Works, December 1965 edition, p. 31) 

We have often been too liberal in the past. We have tended to avoid sharp criticism. We 
didn't want to hurt feelings, or get someone angry at us. True, there is a place for tact in 
criticism. But tact is one thing, liberalism— avoiding ideological debate— is something 

Unless our Party consciously takes up the job of remolding and involves every member 
on all levels, then simply writing about weaknesses will do little good. Of course, we all 
have weaknesses. And to say that is to say that we all need to deepen our ideological 
understanding and revolutionary commitment. But while true, it is also untrue to say, 
"well, we're all guilty, and we should all improve." If that is all we say, then it's a dodge. 
Some members are more influenced by bourgeois ideology than others. Some have been 
more successful in struggling against it, while in some, bourgeois individualism is so 
pronounced it virtually negates the positive aspects of the members and threatens to 
disrupt the work of the Party in the particular unit. "Active ideological struggle" is not 
easy. It means painful and drawn-out transformations of individuals. It means criticizing 
friends. It means criticizing ourselves. It sometimes means being criticized by three or 
four or even ten people, and paying careful attention to what each one says. It means 
asking for criticism instead of avoiding it. It means honestly admitting fears. It means 
constantly studying the political, economic and philosophical concepts which make up 
the ideology of revolution, and then thinking about them and trying to apply them. It's not 
easy. Making a revolution isn't easy. 

Good criticism means self-criticism. If one does not consciously seek out his own 
weaknesses and attempt to improve, one cannot give consistent constructive help to 
others. The approach to criticism by a member of a club or a leadership body should 
begin with self-criticism. Unfortunately, many of us have built-in defenses, retained by 
years of middle-class rationalization. 

One member who is particularly guilty of selfish, anti collective attitudes read an early 
draft of this article and responded by saying, first, "It's good." And then, almost as an 
afterthought, "I disagree about selfishness being caused by bourgeois society," and 
continued along the lines that "man is a selfish animal" and the whole pattern described 
by Liu Shao-chi (cited above) as "exploiting class rubbish to justify individualism." 
Naturally, this member diligently avoided self-criticism and change. 

Criticism and self-criticism constitute the main process of inner-Party struggle to resolve 
the contradiction between revolutionary and bourgeois ideology within our ranks. 

How shall we criticize our comrades? Here, the word comrade is used not just in the 
formalistic sense of Party member, which is, by the way, a definition quite alien to most 
people in our country, but in the truest sense— friend, class brother and fellow- 
revolutionary. As we said above, most of our comrades who display tendencies of 
bourgeois individualism do so without bad intention. Their ideology, their attitudes, are 
enemies. They, as people, are not. Therefore, our criticism must be aimed at changing the 
comrade, at eliminating his wrong ideas and attitudes, not at driving him away. Our 
criticism must be aimed at reaching unity— unity based on better understanding of 
Marxism-Leninism, but unity. 

That is the key. Both the comrade offering the criticism and the one receiving it should 
begin with a clear desire for unity. If either lacks this desire, if either is out to knock the 
other down or preserve and defend his own position, the criticism may well be wasted. 
Still, it's important to try. Even if the criticism is not received or given constructively, the 
discussion may in time lead to an honest re-evaluation with positive results. 

There will always be a few who cannot, will not, improve, who refuse to change, who 
sink deeper into their own selfishness, who break with the Party. But we must make those 
as few as possible. Even in those cases, the correct handling of criticism may determine 
whether such persons leave the Party as enemies or as friends with whom we can 
continue working. We must work hard to improve every comrade. Let those determined 
to abandon the struggle make that decision for themselves. Sometimes the process of 
criticism and improvement may take a long time, during which the outcome of the 
struggle is in doubt. In such cases, it's necessary to reserve final judgment on the comrade 
in question. But let us not be anxious to write anyone off. 

Here, the revolutionary movement has a great need for sensitivity. With the enemy we 
must be ruthless, as they are with us. But with ourselves, our comrades, our potential 
comrades, our allies, we must be understanding. All of us are capable of real 
understanding and friendship, and all of us would like to share these qualities with our 

In relations with our comrades we might keep in mind Keats' plea: "Men should bear with 
each other more. There lives not the man who cannot be cut up, aye hacked to pieces on 
his weakest side." 

Let us not forget that criticism includes positive as well as negative evaluation. Praising a 
particular member or unit for worthwhile achievements can be a big factor in improving 
the whole Party. Those members and groups who usually stay in the background, who do 
consistent, unglamorous day to day work selling papers, sealing envelopes, talking to 
people in the community, should be especially singled out for recognition whenever 
possible. Such positive examples of dedication to the working class may help our 
members overcome weaknesses more than negative criticism. Inter-club visits should be 

arranged to help members learn from the best Party groups. Appreciation for positive 
work must be included in the overall process of criticism. 

Criticism, like everything else, contains two opposing aspects. In this case, they are the 
giving of criticism and receiving of criticism. Both of these opposite positions are 
essential to the process of criticism or self-criticism, but in determining the outcome of 
the process one of these is decisive: in almost every case, the receiving of criticism, or the 
way in which criticism is accepted, determines the success or failure of criticism or self- 

No matter how badly, angrily, or subjectively criticism may be given, if the person 
receiving the comments has a constructive self-critical and unity-seeking approach he 
will be able to listen carefully, and draw out the legitimate criticism— often unexpressed 
in words— from the emotion. On the other hand, no matter how constructively criticism 
may be presented, if the one being criticized has a bad attitude, does not want unity and 
does not want to change, the criticism will be useless. Of course, the way in which 
criticism is given may affect the attitude of the receiver— a little human understanding and 
self-criticism will make it much easier for others to accept the criticism you offer; but in 
the final analysis it is that attitude of the receiver which is decisive. 

Therefore, let us consider some of the most common wrong ways of receiving criticism, 
all of which reflect bourgeois individualism. 

Some members pay little or no attention to criticism from anyone who happens to be 
below them on the organizational ladder. They feel it will compromise their prestige and 
authority. In reality, of course, it is just the opposite. By ignoring honest criticism they 
lose— and rightly so— both prestige or authority. When leaders have this attitude towards 
rank-and-file criticism they are bad leaders or even misleaders; if they maintain this 
attitude they have no business in leadership positions. There is no such thing as rank in 
the realm of criticism. 

Some members will seize on the wrong manner of their critic to evade the content of the 
criticism; they take advantage of the weakness or inexperience of their critics, and 
immediately turn upon them and accuse them of "subjectivism" and other such terrible 
things. Sometimes people raise criticism in the heat of a situation and they don't put it 
forward in the best way. Of course, this usually turns people off. But even when criticism 
is not given in the best way, we should try to hear the criticism, evaluate its merits, and 
then later discuss with the person the manner in which it was given. 

Some members adopt the approach of "retaliation" to assuage the wrong they think has 
been done them. They will listen to criticism only if the person giving it includes an equal 
amount of self-criticism. The sharper the criticism of them, the sharper they plan to make 
their retaliation. They are usually so obsessed with measuring the "equality" of the 
exchange that they pay only the most superficial attention to the content of the criticism. 
If they are denied the right to retaliate they consider it an undemocratic plot against them. 

This attitude, of course makes a mockery of the critical process. It is especially a danger 
during formal criticism meetings. 

Then there are the sulkers. They consider it a grave tragedy to have a weakness 
uncovered and criticized, and they usually adopt a very grim look and go off in a corner 
and brood for a few days or weeks or even months . They don't understand that the 
purpose of criticism is to improve the Party through improving its members, and it's not a 
game of hide-and-seek where you hide your own weaknesses and seek those of others. 
Sulkers, for all their sulking, usually do little improving. No one can ever be quite sure 
whether they're trying to change themselves or just to find better hiding places for their 
flaws in the future. 

Then there are the wrigglers and squirmers, the "lawyers" who will try to turn honest 
criticism into courtroom maneuvers. They will challenge some minor point in the 
criticism in order to obscure the essence of it: "I never used exactly those words!" They 
will make their statements as general, and as vague, as possible. They will claim they 
didn't intend to do what in fact they did. And in general they will talk about anything and 
everything except the concrete point of criticism which is raised. They are so desperate to 
salvage themselves that they often actually convince themselves they are being maligned 
and sometimes even that a conspiracy exists against them. They are like the six-year-old 
boy who is criticized for throwing a stone at his little brother. "It wasn't a stone, it was 
just a piece of dirt. Besides, I didn't mean to hit him, I just wanted to scare him. Besides, I 
didn't throw it at him, I just wanted to see if I could throw it that far." That may be a 
normal childish response. But how often have we found it in our own members! 

Of course, everyone should defend his views as long as he honestly believes them, but 
the key point is that the aim of this defense— as well as the aim of the views— must be to 
improve the work of the Party and the working class. 

Criticism will only work if everyone has confidence in the group; if the aim of the 
criticism and self-criticism is to help the group. In such a situation each person will 
honestly admit all weaknesses and errors, even those not apparent, not try to protect 
himself by legalistic maneuvers or obscuring his ideas so no one will be able to tell what 
he really meant. Who should be so afraid of criticism? Whom are you afraid of? Your 
comrades? If you are so afraid of your comrades that you will go to such lengths to avoid 
being honest with them, and yourself, then how will you react to the enemy? The 
likelihood is you will react like a leaf reacts to a hurricane. On the other hand, confidence 
in each other and in the group will give us each the strength of our entire Party and enable 
us to withstand any enemy storms. 

What form should criticism and self-criticism take within our Party? Here, flexibility 
must be the key. The form must be subordinate to the content and the spirit of the 
criticism. Many forms are useful. 

Formal criticism meetings, or what Mao Tse-tung calls a "rectification campaign," in 
which the entire Party holds unit meetings to deal with a particular weakness such as 

bourgeois individualism, offer many advantages. First, when such meetings are 
announced in advance, people will spend time thinking critically about each other, about 
themselves, and about the ideological weakness. This is especially important when we are 
not--as too many of us are not— in the habit of thinking critically. Second, when the entire 
Party launches a "rectification campaign," members will concentrate attention and 
suggestions on overcoming the main weakness or obstacle to the Party's progress at a 
given moment. This may avoid scatter criticism, in which everything, big and little, 
important and unimportant, is discussed at once, and which can often be more confusing 
than helpful. Third, formal sessions will encourage those members who are more shy to 
speak out and express their views, which are often extremely valuable. In the process 
those more withdrawn people may begin to emerge, get more confidence in themselves, 
and take on more responsibility. 

Of course there are dangers in formal criticism sessions. The thing can be abused. We 
demand too much from people too soon. Even when we try to improve, and even when 
we make some headway, we tend to slip back, and need constant help from our comrades. 
Remolding a human being first molded by 20 or 30 years of U.S. capitalism is a long 
process. The most we can ask is that everyone sincerely try to slowly improve. 

Then, too, criticism sessions can be overdone and institutionalized into empty forms. 
People can begin to think of Tuesday night as Criticism Night, and beat their breasts for a 
couple of hours, often with incisive criticism and self-criticism, and then go home and 
forget about it. The Sunday morning sermon with left-wing cliches! Frankly, a good hell- 
and-brimstone preacher is more fun. 

Finally, formal sessions may sometimes embarrass a particular person who is criticized, 
and make it more difficult for him to accept criticism or to criticize himself. Such 
attitudes are wrong and we should struggle against them. But we should understand them, 
and be sensitive to them. Sometimes a private informal chat or series of chats between 
two or three members, or between some of the leadership and a particular member 
produce better results than formal meetings. 

Still, on the whole, a rectification campaign would be most useful for us at this time, if it 
is conducted constructively and with common sense. Many types of criticism meetings 
are possible. Sometimes each member may take turns criticizing himself and the others; 
or the discussion may center on one particular member; or everyone may evaluate a 
particular event and each member's role in it; or a particular weakness which is prevalent 
in the group; or a leading member may be criticized by everyone, at least as the first step. 

Whatever the forms, our Party and every member of our Party should recognize the need 
now for criticism and self-criticism within our ranks, especially aimed at bourgeois 

We must study and learn how to conduct what has come to be known as "inner-Party 
struggle." In the process, we must concentrate on the basic cause of weaknesses and 
avoid personal squabbles and mechanical criticism. We have to find ways to keep the 

discussions as much as possible on an ideological level, and encourage members to 
express and explain their policy differences whenever possible. The aim of these 
discussions must not be to "knock" a particular person or to remove anyone from a 
particular post, although occasionally such action may be necessary. As we said before, 
the aim of all our criticism and self-criticism must be a new unity of the Party, a unity 
based on more and deeper political understanding, and a firmer commitment to 

Through all these weaknesses in every aspect, the overriding danger is revisionism: 
abandoning the international working class, substituting reform for revolution, trying to 
negotiate the class struggle until you negotiate yourself over to the other side. This is the 
enemy of the working people of the world, and those who spout this line are as dangerous 
as their buddies, the Washington war-makers. We must expose them and attack them at 
every turn, and constantly guard against this ideology within our midst. 

We might just mention here the personal inner feelings involved in remolding oneself. It 
seems paradoxical because most of us cling so desperately to our individualism. Yet no 
one enjoys fighting the whole world all by himself. And anyone who has gone through 
discussions where he was criticized, where he recognized his weaknesses, and then 
improved himself, even partly, knows an exhilarating feeling of freedom— freedom from 
his internal self-aggravation and fear— and a new self-confidence and confidence in his 
comrades and in the collective composed of all of them. In that feeling we may get just a 
glimpse of the man of the future, the communist man, we are working to create. 

No criticism, no matter how carefully presented and constructively phrased, should be 
expected to bring about significant changes in anyone who is isolated from political 
activity. Any club or group which spends so much time in criticism sessions that it never 
leaves the meeting room should be sharply criticized. Participation in the struggles of 
working people, students, farmers and others for a better life is essential in remolding our 

Within this environment, if we can develop correct criticism in our Party we will see that 
our errors and weaknesses are not just bad things, but, in fact, can be transformed into 
good things. We will learn that without mistakes there can be no progress, and discover 
how to turn weakness into strength. 


Planlessness and pragmatism are inherent in the every-man-for-himself capitalist 
economy. And what leads in economics follows suit in politics and even in military 

In practice, of course, the ruling class does its best to plan ahead, and we must not 
underestimate their ability to scheme. But successful planning is against their inhuman 
nature. So they plan for years to wage a remote-control war in Asia without involving 
U.S. land troops, and they wake up one morning with a quarter of a million soldiers 

sinking in the quicksand of aggression in Vietnam. This doesn't mean they are irrational 
or crazy, just that their original plan couldn't work and they were forced to make new 
plans— which also can't work. Even in the conduct of their military operations they find 
themselves, for all their computer-brains, with such chaotic situations as too many ships 
in one place and not enough ships in another. 

Traditionally, the U.S. working class and its leaders have been just as pragmatic as our 
enemies— if not more so. "But there is no time," we constantly declare in excusing 
ourselves. "There is so much to do." And so we rush from meeting to meeting and picket 
line to picket line, wearing ourselves out like the proverbial headless chicken and using 
just about as many brains. 

In our "personal lives," of course, we are capable of great planning, no matter how busy 
we are. Individuals develop the most intricate schemes for "getting ahead." A student will 
know exactly which courses he needs to take over a period of years, and which teachers 
are the "best" in order to achieve whatever degree he has decided upon in order then to 
get whatever job he is aiming at. On the job, a worker can tell you just what has to be 
done to achieve a promotion. And housewives are constantly preparing, and applying, the 
most careful plans not only to get by on inadequate incomes, but often even to save a 
little bit for hard times. Yet we say we are too busy to plan for our class. 

The result is we run the risk of drifting along from day to day following the easiest path, 
which is usually the wrong path. We don't see problems or dangers which lie ahead, or if 
we see them we do nothing about them. In the past, faced with unforeseen developments, 
so-called working class parties have swung back and forth between adventurism and 
retreat. If the police suddenly attack a demonstration, for example, the demonstrators 
without a plan either fight wildly, causing needless injuries and extra arrests, or simply 
run away, dragging their tails behind them. Even if a plan is made for a given 
demonstration, r o plan is made to follow it up, to consolidate the gains, to raise the 
protest to a higher level, etc. More often we hear, "Well, let's see how it works out and 
then we'll decide what to do next." 

Our Party's founding convention took a big step towards meeting this problem and 
provided our members with the beginnings of a realistic long-range outlook for the 
development of the revolutionary movement in our country. But it was only a start. 

Pragmatism in our ranks is mainly an ideological problem and cannot be overcome at one 
meeting or by one report. We fail to plan because essentially we don't believe in 
planning. Also, it seems easier not to plan, and those who suffer from laziness will do the 
least planning. We do not really understand the necessity for planning. We thoughtlessly 
adopt the bourgeois approach that only God can make a plan. 

It's like a football team coming out of a huddle without a play. "Just snap the ball back 
and we'll see what happens," says the quarterback. What happens is that you can't gain 
much ground with the other team piled up on top of you. 

There are three main ways to overcome this lack of planning in our ranks: 


To plan for change without understanding dialectical materialism, the science of change, 
is like planning a trip to the moon without understanding rocketry, or even basic physics. 

Every single member of our party— no matter what his position—needs to study Marxism- 
Leninism consistently. A few have already done a great deal of reading of Marxist works. 
Too often, however, these few do not relate what they have read to real life. One former 
member used to act as if Marxism-Leninism were a series of magic words which need 
only to be repeated enough times to solve the problems of the world. Therefore, he would 
repeat the words as often as possible, usually quoting the exact formulation— and only the 
exact formulation— written in "The Book," and showing polite toleration for those 
younger people who didn't know the "Word." The result is he actually discouraged honest 
study and created a cynical attitude among some people towards Marxism-Leninism, 
which became identified with his cliches. Not all those who have studied Marxism 
behave in this way, of course; some can give and have given valuable assistance to our 
younger members. 

The main obstacle to overcome in organizing the study of Marxism-Leninism is the lazy 
and basically contemptuous attitude towards study— all study— which is one of the few 
things most of us learned in high school or college. "What will it get me?" is the 
unexpressed question behind most members' resistance to study. One way to deal with 
this problem might be to start handing out cash prizes to those who read the most pages 
per hour. If we run out of cash, we could offer free goulash. But perhaps we can find a 
better way. 

Numerous good techniques are available to "enliven" the study of Marxism, and nothing's 
wrong— everything's right— with trying to make study as provocative and lively as 
possible. Such creative forms as special schools, films and debates can and should be 
used. Classes or study groups can he organized in which each student writes an essay on 
his experience in reading a particular Marxist-Leninist work, his reactions, his 
understanding, his questions. The subject of how to study Marxism-Leninism merits a 
separate article; it should deal with, among other things, our positive and negative 
experiences, including cadre schools. 

Whatever methods are added, there is no substitute for reading basic Marxist-Leninist 
works including the writings of Mao Tse-tung. Here, our members should give special 
emphasis to studying contradictions, the kernel of change, and understanding the two 
aspects— emerging and declining— of every phenomenon, and the struggle between them. 


The encyclopedia of errors committed by well-intentioned students of Marxism who 
mechanically tried to apply strategy and tactics based solely on experiences of 
revolutionaries in other countries fills many volumes. Mao Tse-tung writes again and 
again of the need to study "living ideas," real-life conditions in each country. In the U.S. 
we have an advantage because the ruling class has already organized a vast research 
network and publishes endless statistics, many of which are extremely valuable. These 
must be studied systematically. Of course, no government statistics should be accepted 

In any case, no book research, no matter how thorough, can be useful unless it's 
combined with study through-experience, examining conditions with our own eyes. This 
means living with the people, workers, students, farmers, and everyone we want to 
influence. We must be a part of the people, not just at meetings but on the job, on the 
campus, and on the farm. If we don't live with the people we can't learn from the people. 
And if we can't learn from the people we can't teach anybody. 

We should try to study one or two typical samples of a phenomenon and then generalize 
from them. For example, if we want to learn how big cities in our country operate, we 
might pick Baltimore and Denver, or any two we think are typical, and study their 
economies, their politics, the racketeers who run the local business interests, their 
connections to the national syndicates and big political bosses, monopoly interests, 
composition of working class, main immediate problems, wage scales, unemployment, 
etc., and then see if we can draw general conclusions about all or most big cities, and how 
to conduct the revolutionary struggle there. 

Of course, no one should use "study" as an excuse for inactivity. Our day-to-day political 
work must be a source of and a test for our studies, as well as the reason for which we 
study. Study without political work is like a menu without food. 

The study of concrete conditions has two main aims: to know ourselves, our class and our 
allies and the contradictions within us; and to know the enemy and the enemy's 
contradictions. If this article serves any purpose, it may help us to understand ourselves a 
little better. However, we have been sorely lacking so far in thorough-going studies of the 
enemy. In his military writings, Mao Tse-tung says that in learning the laws of war "what 
has to be learned and known includes the state of affairs on the enemy side and that on 
our side, both of which should be regarded as the object of study." (Selected Military 
Writings, p. 86.) Whether during a relatively peaceful period, such as the present, or 
otherwise, what we are studying— or should be studying— are the laws of war, class war. 
Understanding and taking advantage of the contradictions in the enemy is essential if we 
intend to plan ahead. 


In our short history, we have already lived through several struggles. We have made 
mistakes. That is not so important. The question is, have we learned from the mistakes? 
Do we summarize our experiences, good and bad, our work in the South or in ghetto 
communities for example, and attempt to draw lessons for future work? Do we analyze 
our publications? Sometimes we do. But not enough. Our Party must make time for 
regular and systematic evaluations. Otherwise, even Marxist-Leninist theory and a study 
of concrete conditions in our country will not help us win. Only practice can put our 
programs to the true test, only the reactions of the working people and intellectuals 
around us. 

Summarize our experience, evaluate, draw lessons, make new plans, carry them out, 
summarize, evaluate: on and on. But when we say summarize our experience this must be 
mainly experience among non-Party working people. And here we cannot be like that fat- 
headed politician whose only contact with the masses is looking down from a platform at 
a street corner meeting. 

It's worth repeating several times: every Party member must have close friends outside 
the Party. And if a person is a friend, naturally we will share ideas on what is important to 
us, politics as well as baseball. Without this base at the job, the school, in the community 
or on the farm, no meaningful evaluation of our policies is possible. The "mass line" is 
the basis of effective planning. We must consciously plan to plan. We must assign 
ourselves time to summarize and evaluate. If the day-today rush of "business" appears too 
hectic to permit such meetings, then certain leading members or bodies should take a 
period of time together away from the big city's hustle-bustle in some area where they 
can spend as long as necessary— even up to a week or two or three —to summarize, 
evaluate, study and draw up new plans. The Party's daily functioning can continue for a 
while without the physical presence of these individuals (it will even give some of the 
newer people valuable experience in self-reliance), but the Party's long-range functioning 
will flounder without such sessions from time to time. 

In planning, the leadership should pay careful attention to individual assignments. 
However, planning can not be seen as the responsibility of the leadership alone, any more 
than thinking. Every member should give careful thought to the Party's perspectives, take 
part in summarizing and evaluating experiences, and insist on a thorough understanding 
of his own assignment. No member should wake up in the morning and wonder what he's 
going to do that day. Every member should have a daily plan, which in turn is part of a 
weekly and monthly and one-year and five-year and ten-year perspective; each individual 
plan should be part of a club plan and the club plan part of an overall Party strategy. 

Here it should be useful to organize the perspective by stages, setting clear-cut minimum 
goals for each stage, and devoting most attention to what is determined to be the major 
objective of each stage. For example, if the objective of one stage is to build a base in a 
community, we should analyze the neighborhood forces, their relative strength, stability 
and class outlook, then set some simple concrete goals for working with the forces we 
seek to develop. 

Naturally, we can't make a blueprint for every minute of the day or predict exactly what 
will happen in the next ten weeks, let alone ten years. Our plans must be realistic and 
flexible. More important, we must be flexible in carrying them out, changing them when 
necessary, adapting to new situations, raising questions and proposing new plans. Above 
all, we must never plan away our boldness and enthusiasm; we must never reject 
initiative because "it's not in the plan." On the contrary, we must always have the 
initiative, launch new projects, and stay one jump (at least one) ahead of the ruling class. 
But none of this negates the need for planning. Revolutions don't appear magically any 
more than skyscrapers do. 


Some members reading this may complain that the points raised, while not completely 
worthless, are inappropriate at best and perhaps even harmful. They may raise a number 
of objections. 

First, they may say, this is not the time to get so introspective, to turn so much of our 
attention inward. We've made great strides recently; the tide of struggle is rising; the class 
war is sharpening; the people are on the move. If we devote all of our attention to 
ourselves, we will miss the boat. 

The last point is obviously true. But no one proposes that we devote all our attention to 
ourselves— or even most of it. This is not basically a plea for more time, for a new 
quantity of agenda— space to be spent on self-improvement, although that should be one 
result. It is an argument for more consciousness, for a new quality of understanding of 
ourselves in order to improve our work. And it is precisely because we are currently 
moving forward that we must worry about our weaknesses. When we suffer defeats and 
failures, everyone will be sitting soberly with head in hands trying to figure out what 
went wrong and what to do next. That will be the time to emphasize our strengths, to 
fight against pessimism and defeatism. But now, when we are "rolling along," we may 
tend to overlook or minimize serious weaknesses, to overestimate our strength and 
underestimate the enemy. Everybody knows what happened to the hare in his race with 
the tortoise. 

Let no one underestimate the effects of bourgeois ideology. What may begin with a few 
private dachas in a Moscow suburb very quickly becomes the restoration of Russian 
capitalism, complete with unemployment and official anti-semitism. Who would have 
imagined that the land of Lenin would one day let itself be represented by slick vodka ads 
in Madison Avenue magazines paraphrasing Ian Fleming's CIA story with the slogan 
"From Russia With Ice"? In the same way, Gus Hall's private Westchester dacha is part 
and parcel of the whole shameful policy under which a once-communist party mobilizes 
its feeble forces to help elect the most blatantly reactionary President in U.S. history. 

If bourgeois ideology is permitted to get a foothold, if it is not constantly opposed in our 
ranks, it can spread as quickly as cancer with just as deadly results. Of course, we must 

keep struggling on the front lines of demonstrations, strikes, and mass movements, but 
we must keep improving ourselves, too. 

Second, some will say these remarks are too negative. If we have all those faults we 
ought to give up! Here, there is a real weakness in this article. It doesn't deal with all the 
positive qualities which our membership and our leadership possess. It doesn't detail all 
the tremendous gains we have made in the past few years, and especially since the 
founding of our Party. By leaving those things out, it presents a one-sided picture, or it 
would present such a picture to those who don't know the whole story. 

All right, the article is guilty of one-sidedness. But if we recognize that— and we who 
know the full story of our Party's development surely we don't need to read self-praise to 
know that we have done fairly well— then we can approach the questions raised here with 
a constructive attitude. It is patently ridiculous to say that if 'we have all those faults we 
ought to give up.' If we have those faults and we don't try to overcome them then we 
ought to give up. In other words, if we give up we ought to give up. 

Third, some will argue that all this may be true, but there is a war on and a danger of a 
much bigger war at any moment. It's a crisis! An emergency! When bombs are dropping 
is hardly the moment to consider bourgeois individualism! If bombs are exploding around 
you as you are reading this, please be sure you have good shelter before going any 

If bombs are not exploding where you are then surely it can't be much of an unusual 
crisis. Even where U.S. bombs have been dropping every day for years— in Vietnam— the 
people don't stop their work, their studying, their discussions, their criticism, or their 
evaluations. That is one of their great strengths. 

Our organization has been in a state of crisis every day of every week of its short life. 
And if we are true to our revolutionary principles we should expect crisis upon crisis for 
the rest of our lives. By that standard, we would never get to consider bourgeois 
individualism. This argument is precisely the kind of lack of planning referred to above. 

Actually, the sharper the crisis the better from one point of view. People are forced to 
face their weakness in time of emergency. Some, the weakest, will retreat from the 
revolution, a few will betray it. Many who have managed to conceal or ignore their inner 
doubts and fears will be forced to grapple with them, and some will overcome them. For 
those, strikes, arrests, battles, wars add steel to the makeup. There is no room for 
revisionism at such moments. There are only two sides and it is life or death; when you 
come out to fight you leave your goulash behind. The essence of the class struggle 
emerges to the surface. 

In such a situation, the conditions of battle will do more than this or a dozen better 
written pieces could ever do to improve the quality of the work of those who survive. 
Nonetheless, if we don't prepare before the battle, most won't survive. It's as simple as 


By this time, not so many people as a few years ago feel the revolutionary struggle in the 
U.S. is hopeless. Our people have begun to show their potential. Our Party has never 
doubted that we can succeed. But it won't be easy. Those who think it's a snap are going 
to wake up one day and find themselves snapped flat on their backs We are fighting a 
rich and powerful enemy; this enemy is not going to permit a peaceful change; this 
enemy cannot win in the long run, but it can kill a lot of people in the meantime. We 
cannot succeed alone. We must join forces with every possible ally among the working 
people, black and white, students and intellectuals, farmers, and small businessmen— in 
other words, the overwhelming majority of our population. This cannot be done 
overnight, but this must be our goal. It is a necessary prerequisite for revolution. This 
means united fronts, united work, alliances both temporary and long range, using the 
contradictions in the ruling class, distinguishing the main enemy from secondary 
enemies, and concentrating all forces possible against that enemy, means we must utilize 
many organizational forms for mass action. In a ghetto area, for example in addition to a 
PLP club, we might have a Tenants' Union, a part-time nursery school run by a 
committee of mothers and older sisters, cultural workshops, a health and welfare action 
committee, a youth defense league, etc. This in no way means that we abandon our 
independent communist position, our ideological leadership of the revolutionary 
movement. Everything in this article presupposes the continuing of our basic line, our 
socialist education and our open advocacy of socialist revolution as the only solution to 
the problems which plague our people. We are simply saying that to win we must 
eventually find ways to unite the above-mentioned potentially progressive elements 
behind the working class. At the same time, to succeed we must ally ourselves with the 
world revolutionary forces, especially in Latin America, Asia and Africa. 

Even with this, we won't succeed automatically. Better than the question "Can we 
succeed?" would be "Do we dare to succeed?" Do we really want to make a revolution? 
Are we willing to go all the way? That question underlies all the other points in this